Off­spring on the way

A new fam­ily car, the Suzuki Kiza­shi is plan­ning a fam­ily of its own, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

AFAM­ILY of mid-sized cars will even­tu­ally grow from the all-new Suzuki Kiza­shi sedan, which has just ar­rived in Aus­tralia.

sporty wagon is likely to be first, tap­ping the style and shape of a Kiza­shi con­cept car shown in Frank­furt three years ago. A coupe is also on the plan­ning pro­gram. An all-wheel-drive Kiza­shi is al­ready in the works, and ap­proved for Aus­tralia, and there could be a V6 en­gine to suit US buy­ers, though Suzuki is also be­lieved to be ex­am­in­ing the po­ten­tial for a tur­bocharged four.

There is a petrol-elec­tric hy­brid close to a pro­duc­tion sign-off, first for the US next year but also likely for Aus­tralia.

Masaaki Kato, Ocea­nia mar­ket­ing man­ager for Suzuki, says: ‘‘We have an idea in mind for an­other body style for Kiza­shi.

‘‘It’s not some­thing we can dis­cuss yet, but we are work­ing.’’

Kato says the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis has af­fected the Kiza­shi pro­gram, cut­ting sales fore­casts from 200,000-plus cars to about 80,000 in the first year and re­duc­ing the money avail­able for fu­ture model de­vel­op­ments.

But Kato says the Kiza­shi fam­ily will grow and there will be me­chan­i­cal up­grades to a car that is cru­cial to the com­pany’s fu­ture.

‘‘We will have more for Kiza­shi in a cou­ple of years,’’ he says, with­out pro­vid­ing any de­tail.

But an on-sale date in 2012 means Suzuki has al­ready com­pleted the next stage of the pro­gram.

It takes about two years to go from a de­sign sign-off to full-scale pro­duc­tion, and that points to a sta­tion wagon be­cause the sales po­ten­tial for a coupe is limited and would only give a short-term boost to Kiza­shi.

Suzuki Aus­tralia is con­fi­dent an all-wheeldrive Kiza­shi — us­ing sim­i­lar com­po­nents to its SX4 mod­els— will do well in Aus­tralia but does not have a timetable.

Tony Dev­ers, gen­eral man­ager of Suzuki Aus­tralia, says: ‘‘When it’s avail­able we’ll con­sider it.

We’re not ready and it hasn’t been made avail­able to us yet.’’ And the sta­tion wagon? ‘‘Not in the fore­see­able fu­ture,’’ he says. Suzuki’s new part­ner­ship with Volk­swa­gen Group, which has taken a mi­nor­ity stake in the Ja­panese com­pany, is likely to open doors on the tech­ni­cal front in­clud­ing ac­cess to a V6 en­gine.

But no one knows the de­tail yet on the tie-up or the po­ten­tial for a V6.

‘‘It’s still early days. No one re­ally knows how it’s go­ing to work,’’ Dev­ers says. ‘‘A V6 was ini­tially re­viewed, but it’s not avail­able to us at the moment.’’

It’s a sim­i­lar story for a diesel en­gine, even though Suzuki has big plans for the Kiza­shi in Europe. ‘‘They are study­ing but the diesel seg­ment is quite small,’’ Dev­ers says.

Fam­ily-ori­ented: the Kiza­shi con­cept car was shown in Frank­furt three years ago.

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